If you didn’t know that at one point in her career Dr. Melanie Hatch analyzed combat-ready aircraft for the defense industry, then discovering she loves to write poetry might not be such a surprising revelation.
But the native Midwesterner with an extensive background in engineering and business said penning verse is one of her favorite ways to relax.
“I tend to write poetry that’s comical in nature,” said Hatch, who in late summer became Middle Georgia State University’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “I try to have fun with it. It clears my head. One of my secret ambitions is to be the next Dr. Seuss.”
Whether due to the whimsical nature of her hobby or something else, Hatch brings a calm focus to her new position, which carries with it all the responsibilities of being second-only-to-the-president in MGA’s administration. Her duties include leading the University’s faculty, overseeing the development and realization of new academic initiatives and maintaining continuity and growth of existing programs.
“Melanie's depth of leadership experiences, both academically and operationally, ensures that she will strengthen the integration and delivery of academic programs, which now include graduate degrees, in our multi-campus environment,” said MGA’s president, Dr. Christopher Blake. “I am confident she will lead the way in opening new doors of opportunity for our students and developing initiatives to help the University enhance the region economically and culturally.”
Born in Ohio, Hatch mostly grew up there and in Indiana, but she graduated from high school in Buffalo, N.Y. She earned her undergraduate degree in Mathematics from Indiana University and later completed a master’s degree in Engineering Management from the University of Dayton.
She began her professional life as a reliability engineer at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where she analyzed “combat-coded” aircraft – which means they are ready for combat missions - and conducted military operations planning. Hatch performed similar work at her next job as an operations research analyst with Dynamics Research Corp. (DRC) in Dayton.
After Congress enacted the 1990 Balanced Budget Act, DRC downsized and Hatch found herself out of work.
“I couldn’t find another job in the industry, even though I had my master’s degree,” Hatch said. “After a great deal of thought, and on the advice of my father, I went back to school. I enjoyed the corporate training I did with DRC and thought I would enjoy teaching.”
After completing her doctorate in Management Science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, she joined Middle Tennessee State University as an assistant professor of business. She later returned to Ohio to join the faculty of Miami University.
Among her most satisfying experiences as a professor was having students in an advanced computer simulation class come up with solutions to a real-world supply chain issue for the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Divided into teams, the students presented their solutions to company representatives, who later told Hatch that some were better than what their own employees had recommended.
“Five of my students from that class were hired by Eli Lilly when they graduated,” she said. “That was thrilling.”
After a faculty mentor suggested she’d be good at it, Hatch stepped into higher education administration when she took the position of associate dean of the School of Business at Marymount University. She moved on to become business school dean at Indiana Tech, then dean of the College of Engineering and Business at Gannon University.
“Although I enjoyed the direct classroom interaction with my students as a faculty member,” Hatch said, “I can help impact the success of thousands of students as an administrator.”
Her last position before arriving at Middle Georgia State was chancellor of Penn State DuBois, where she managed all aspects of operations, including articulation and execution of the campus’s strategic direction. Hatch is especially proud of the private fundraising Penn State DuBois success had under her tenure. More than $12 million was raised for scholarships and international travel experiences for students, as well as new classroom and lab equipment.
She is confident she can help Middle Georgia State strengthen in those same areas and others.
“Two of my passions are experiential learning and international education,” she said. “I would like to create more community partnerships for students to consult with industry and solve problems or do research. As a long-term goal, I would like every student to have an international experience. That might mean study abroad or student and faculty exchange programs or working on projects with students from other institutions.”
Hatch’s hiring at MGA was the result of a nationwide search conducted by Myers McRae Executive Search and Consulting of Macon. In addition to the prospect of being able to live closer to family members in Kennesaw, Ga., and Charlotte, N.C., Hatch said MGA’s “exciting post-consolidation path” attracted her to the job.
“Middle Georgia State did an amazing amount of work to become one institution and then earn university status not long afterward,” she said. “I’m excited to be part of the evolution.”
This article was originally published in the fall 2016 issue of MGA Today.